Real newbie questions

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Real newbie questions

Postby Diechipmunk on Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:34 am

I apologize if this is elsewhere, but I couldn't find answers to questions this basic.

I'm interested in fermenting a variety of vegetables from my CSA.

My first question is, how thoroughly should I wash the raw veg? Carrots from with dirt, leeks have dirt between the layers. If I scrub too much to remove the dirt will they still ferment, or could I scrub off too much bacteria?

Second, I know I need to keep the veg below the water level, I've seen all kinds of ceramic and glass weights; do I need those, or can I just put a cabbage leave in to hold the rest down?

Lastly, if I get a little mold on the water line, or it some of the veg slips above water, is the whole batch ruined? Can I just remove the compromised veg and enjoy the rest?

Thank you all for your help.
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Re: Real newbie questions

Postby Christopher Weeks on Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:20 am

I mostly rinse my veg and don't worry too much about dirt, I guess I lightly scrub carrots and radishes. I've never fermented leeks, but they'd be a special case. I guess I'd cut off the parts I didn't want to eat -- the root end and very tops of the greens, slice them lengthwise and separate the layers. And then soak, rinse and spin, twice to get rid of the sand. And then ferment in their disassembled state. I've never washed anything so much that a bacterial colony wasn't still present. You could always tuck a cabbage leaf in with any other ferment just to be sure you're getting stuff going.

Any system you devise that actually works to keep your produce under the level of the brine is fine. I have some special-purpose glass weights and they're great sometimes, but most often, I just place a half-pint canning jar in the top of a quart- or gallon-sized ferment. I sometimes tuck a cabbage leaf in at the top, but that doesn't weight stuff down, it just corrals the bits and bobs so they don't go above the leaf. The jar above is needed to keep the cabbage down. But if you figure some way to make it work, it'll work!

If a little veg floats up around your jar/weight/whatever, it'll only ruin your whole batch if you let it. When you see it, pluck it out. Catching it before it molds is best, but sometimes they're tiny and you really don't notice. But once it forms a beach-head for mold, you'll see the white fuzz. When that happens to me, I take it out and compost that little bit. If it has enabled mold to form on the glass, I scrape everything off the surface of the brine and wipe the glass thoroughly, first with a dry paper towel and then with a rag dipped in vinegar. Then I'll put a clean weight/jar back in and continue the ferment. I have neglected a ferment long enough that I ended up tossing the whole thing, but not usually and not in several years. Minor pathogenic incursions are an occasional thing while tossing a batch is an extremely rare thing. But please know, many people are less cavalier than I am about this and we must each see to our own health.
Christopher Weeks
Nuka Ninja
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Re: Real newbie questions

Postby irie1029 on Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:56 am

WOW Christopher what an excellent reply.
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Re: Real newbie questions

Postby Diechipmunk on Wed Jan 09, 2019 9:27 am

Thanks Christopher. I'll feel a lot more confident going into my next fermentation. My plan is to prep a jug of 3% solution, prep a few mason jars with different veg and herbs and fill them up. Looking forward to jalapeno-dill carrot sticks.
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Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:15 pm

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